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by Edmondia Dantes
Disclaimer: Gormenghast belongs to Mervyn Peake and the BBC.
AN: Gift-fic for my darling Mandykins. Kind of an odd blend of book(s) and movie, stylistically based on the 20 Random Facts thing that's been floating around. Fuchsia, Steerpike, and the world.
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He is not her hero, though he's pretended to be, and she's played along, because she wants to, because she needs to, because even though he's false, he's also true, and that is a rare and precious thing, to be cherished forever, even if she fears him. He is not her plaything, though he's played the part before, and she's laughed and embraced that too, because even if he's not hers, he doesn't belong to anyone else, either. He's not anything that he should be, although he could be anything he wanted, and he tries, for her. She revels in it - it doesn't matter, none of it matters, because at least he's there and he's real and he's alive in the same way that she is, and she envies him his freedom.
There are days when she's certain she's being smothered to death, and so she runs, and he's the only one who'll ever follow her. She doesn't know why - he needs no one, he's not like anyone else in the history of ever - so she clings to him, greedy, even though she should always push him away. He's like fire, to her fascinated eyes, destructive and reckless except that he's not, he never will be, he's far too controlled to let himself be careless the way she is, and he'd never take her away from all of this, though she wishes he would.
But he's not anyone's hero, not even hers, and she hates him for that, for being her fantasy and failing her, like everyone else. Everyone else is just pretending, too, they just don't want to admit it - dear, foolish Titus, blinded by his own dreams, and he's too stupid to realize that he's as stuck as she is, maybe even worse, because at least no one cares when she flees the castle, at least no one needs her for anything else than her puppet-purpose.
Sometimes it makes her laugh, when she's alone, when she suspects she's slowly going mad the way her father did, the way her father died, and he too had died in fire, because what was left in the ashes of the library wasn't her father anymore. It wasn't anything, and she hates that, she hates the tears that don't quite come, that never truly have. Sometimes, she thinks she's been lost in a dream all these years, and when she wakes up, bleary-eyed and confused, nothing has changed, and she's still dreaming.
One day she clawed at the walls of her room until the paper was cracked and peeling, her poetry dashed and shredded, and she ran to her attic when nanny came to scold and clutch and exclaim over the mess she'd made. She didn't need to hear, didn't need to see, and if she destroyed another ancient artifact, who would care? It's all rotten anyway.
She keeps the rose he left her pressed in her book of fairy tales. It's a dream, the sweetest one, and she knows it will never come true. Kitchen boys are not brave knights, and princesses are loved and protected, not left to wander the endless grounds like wild madwomen, like the fairy she is too ugly to be.
Darling Dr. Prune is the only sane person she knows. He confuses her terribly, and though he's dear and kind, he's not like her, and she'll never understand him.
Once, she touched his cheek, startled by the warmth and life she felt beneath her fingertips. It was one of the few times she'd ever shocked him, and in the frozen silence before she'd fled, she stared into his eyes and suddenly realized that he loved her.
This is nothing like a fairy tale.
Sometimes, when she's going through the motions of another empty ritual, she'll try to catch his eye, see if there's still the spark that she felt those ages ago when she first found him. Sometimes, when her mother and Barquentine and Titus are arguing their way through another gloomy conversation, he'll glance at her, and she knows it's there, maybe stronger than before, maybe cooler than before, and maybe they're both getting older, but he's still strange and she's still wild and maybe, just maybe, they could have a chance.
Sometimes she's absolutely terrified of him, and sometimes she's revolted by him, but most of the time, she just wants him to notice her. He's all that she has, all that could even be considered to be hers, and she's desperate to keep him. Sometimes she laughs herself into tears, because he's all that she has, and he isn't hers at all. She locks herself in her room, sometimes, clings to her attic and all that she's collected and treasured, and even if her things aren't beautiful, it doesn't matter because no one else wants them, and that makes them just like her.
He's just like her, and they couldn't be farther apart.
She loves Titus, she knows, and Dr. Prune, and she loved her father, once. She does not love Steerpike, and Steerpike does not love her, except in those times in which she adores him, and those fleeting, terrifying moments in which the only truth in the world is that he loves her and she cannot escape him.
This is not a romance.
She's watched him change, and she knows she's changed, and she knows that they're all changing, and that means something strange and terrifying in this place. She shouldn't be changing, the world shouldn't be changing, and if she dragged him to her, he would freeze in her arms, and then he would start pretending, and then everything would blur into what shouldn't be and what could be and that is why she will never reach for him.
There are days when she thinks that Gormenghast is festering, and it gives her chills to see Steerpike, slicing through the world like a surgeon through a wound, and that brilliant clarity terrifies her, sends her scurrying back to the safety of her toys and games, and she won't see him unless he softens his focus, gentles himself for her sake, and she loves that he plays this game for her and her alone.
Once upon a time, she stumbled on a stranger in her attic. Intruder once, intruder twice, and if he's not her knight he could be a dashing pirate, or a brave rebel, courting the princess so far above him, and his boldness and brilliance would be for her favor alone.
She is so far above him that she finds herself straining to chase after him.
Because her dreams can't come true, she dreams them all the harder, and when the world falls short, she runs away again, because she can't bear the ugliness she sees.
Because it began in sunlight, it ends in rain, and at the end of all things, she loves him as fiercely as she hates him.
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